Amanda, Brandy & the AJS Motorbike

Road Tales By Kelly Ashton

BACK WHEN I was just a young single fella with an old single-cylinder AJS and not much else, I had a regular pillion passenger in the form of the Very Lovely Amanda. She was reasonably tall and pleasingly slender, very cute, and she possessed the wildest red hair you’d see this side of artificial colouring.

I’d known Amanda since she was just 14 and a fantastic pool player, shaming many confident pool sharks at the various pool halls around the Manly area. As she grew to womanhood, we became good mates, and spent a lot of time roaring around from pub to party and back again on the mighty AJS and later the mighty Norton; we even shared a house or two for a few years. For the life of me, I can’t remember why we never made ‘The Beast With Two Backs’, but it’s probably for the better, as we are still mates now, and neither of us dare travel through each other’s home state without dropping in to say G’day.

chick riding AJS motorbike

Amanda was a definite trendsetter, having a nose ring, a flower tattooed on her ankle and a bright red scorpion inked by Tony Cohen of the Illustrated Man on her hip. That sort of body adornment may not mean shit to today’s teenager, but back in the 1970s, by jingoes, that was racy! Aged 18, her first job was barmaid in the public bar of Manly’s famous Steyne Hotel; she had all the drunken footballers fascinated with the nose ring, the wild red hair and the short leather skirts.

Amanda looked way cool and much too sexy whether she wore short black skirts, tight jeans or even a long flowing hippie dress. In fact, she was wearing that dress when I dropped her off the back of the Ajay one rainy night. Could’ve been nasty, but it wasn’t so bad.

We’d been invited to a party over the east side of Sydney; like most parties back then, it was strange, possibly stranger than most. See, it was held in a dilapidated old mansion in Double Bay in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. From the state of the place, the occupants may have even been squatting there, because it didn’t seem to be divided into flats, rather keeping its original mansion format. We had a guided tour that just went on and on. This place was a few storeys tall, maybe three, and a full size tennis court up on the flat roof. The net was still there, the lines still marked out, but the decent-sized tree growing out of one of the cracks gave the impression it hadn’t hosted a game for a few decades.

Like most of our forays away from the Sydney’s Northern Beaches, it took a while to understand, but we decided that the drunk and stoned people you meet at Northern Beaches parties had nothing on the Eastern Suburbs people when it came to weirdness. These people were out there, I mean, really out there. The party was already getting stale when the Heavens opened with a serious summer thunderstorm. Time for us to go; point the mighty Ajay northward and set the autopilot.

chick riding AJS motorbike

Amanda hitched her voluminous hippie dress up and tucked most of it into her knickers’ elastic. I never got a good look at the rear view afforded to other road users, but after a quick glimpse in the shop windows down William Street, I could see it looked good. It didn’t take us long to get totally saturated, but it wasn’t cold. Amanda thought it would be cool to sit on the pillion seat and keep her legs out of the weather by wrapping them around me and crossing them in my lap. There’s something reassuring being encompassed by two long and naked legs, even if they are rain-drenched.

Once we’d cleared the Sydney Harbour Bridge on our way home, the rain eased from monsoonal to lightly torrential, but we were making good time. Slipping in between the lanes and to the front of the grid at the Falcon Street off-ramp, we’d just made up about 20 spots, so when the lights went green, we eased through the intersection, splashing onto Falcon Street and heading towards the challenging but cool Big Bear ‘S’ bends.

Now, after the initial lunge to clear the traffic, we just settled down into a nice, smooth, wet weather cruising speed, and not really concerning ourselves with the fact that the maddies in the cars we left behind were now catching up, hoping to get in front of us before the next red light — just so we dumb bikies can get in front of you again, you dickheads!

Like a really skilled rider, I eased the Ajay into the left-hander at Big Bear; then with one fluid movement, eased it over into the right-hander and promptly dumped Amanda, my good self and the poor bloody Ajay unceremoniously on the wet tarmac. It was a giant oil slick and the front and back wheel slid out simultaneously and we went down like three bags of shit in a rusty trailer.

You have a lot of time to think about shit when you’re sliding along a wet road on your arsehole. ‘Hmm, I wish I was wearing more than jeans and a T-shirt; why didn’t I wear gloves? I wonder how Amanda’s long and supple thighs are holding up to the wet tarmac? I wonder where those cars we overtook back there are now? Shit! The cars!’

I soon found out exactly where the cars were; a couple of them were busy doing 180s and 360s in every direction imaginable, trying to avoid running over either Amanda, Ajay or Bugalugs. The Ajay, being an early version of a ‘smart’ motorbike, had assumed ‘crash position’, lying on its side and sliding purposefully towards the outside of the corner — not to smash itself against the gutter, but the durn thing was so clever, it was heading directly for the very wide and inviting driveway of a Caltex service station where it scooted playfully onto the forecourt.

The young fella in the bright green Ford Escort panel van (remember them?) wasn’t so lucky. In a valiant attempt not to run me over, he slid hard into the gutter and did a terrible disservice to his near-side front wheel, bending that sucker over to a crazy angle.

Amanda and I scooped ourselves up quick smart and limped to the Ajay, which was still merrily thumping away on its side in the servo forecourt. Bloody Amal carbs! They barely run right when facing the right way up so why the bloody hell do they work at all while lying down on the job?

Surveying the scene, apart from the Escort and the Ajay, there were also a number of badly-parked vehicles sprayed around the beginning of Military Road — some involved, some just taking in the scene. As usual after a prang, people were running from everywhere and rendering their interpretation of assistance. I was in the process of finding neutral and picking up the Ajay when a bloke who claimed to be a trained St John Ambo was all but ankle-tapping me to the ground and trying to put a blanket around me. He was insisting I was suffering shock, and didn’t believe me when I told him the only shock I’d suffered was that one minute, there I was riding a motorbike, happy as bloody Larry, and then in the blink of an eye, sliding arse-first into a Caltex servo. Now that was a shock.

Amanda was having her own problems; people kept pushing her back down onto the low concrete fence. She exploded, flinging her arms around and ferociously yelling: “Everybody FUCK OFF and leave me alone — it’s my bum that’s sore and I don’t want to sit down!”

They backed away and let her stand. Even trained medical professionals know it is best to keep a safe distance from a cranky carrot-top sheila.

I wandered over to assess the damage to Escort Man’s little green panel van. He had his head down low and wasn’t happy.

“Hey, thanks for not running me over,” I said cheerily. “I’ll pay for the damage; it’s the least I can do, seeing how I’m still alive thanks to your great driving skills.”

It wasn’t washing with Escort Man, but at that instant, a concerned woman ran over and breathlessly announced, “I’ve already called the police, and they said they’re just around the corner and will be here in minutes…”

About three of the stopped drivers muttered, “That’s just friggin’great,” and another few hissed, “Silly old bitch!”

The distinguished-looking gent whose new Jag saloon was parked the wrong way in the one-way section of Military Rd quietly returned to his vehicle and U-turned into the night. Family Man in his Falcon did the same and Escort Man said, “Don’t worry about it, mate, I’m out of here,” before slamming the door angrily and storming off. He also drove away into the night, but a little more conspicuously than the others, as the Escort sort of lurched and squealed and shimmied down Military Road. If cars could get broken collarbones, well, that’s what this one had.

That just left Me, Amanda, Ajay, St John Ambulance Guy, a few others, and Cop-Dobber Lady who kept insisting they should all have waited for the police to take all the details in those carefree, pre-booze-bus days. Yeah, right.

Then, from the shadows, a well-modulated voice-of-reason quietly spoke the most sensible words I’d heard in a while. “I live in that house over there,” it said. “There’s a high fence with a lockable gate, and inside the house there is hot coffee and Dettol — would you like either?”

My new best friend was called Roger, and he proceeded to quietly wheel the Ajay across the road and into his concealed front yard while I distracted Cop-Dobber Lady and explained to her, ‘The police don’t really take statements anymore and there’s no need for them to get wet on a night like tonight’. 

Not even John Cleese could’ve sounded more pompous as I walked backwards away from her, waving cheerily and saying, “Yes, thank you, THANK YOU, goodbye.”

Turns out Roger rode a Harley, a ’77 Low Rider, which, like any Harley back in the 1970s, was a fairly rare machine. He expertly percolated some coffee while daubing Dettol on the fried egg-sized road rash on Amanda’s cute buttock. Both Roger and I could see Amanda’s knickers would cause problems to the healing process, but neither of us found the opportune moment to suggest the obvious remedy. He spent a lot of time attending to Amanda’s wounds, then casually flung the Dettol and cotton wool my way and said, “You’re on your own, pal, get swabbing.”

Roger broke out a bottle of brandy and poured a couple of coffee mugs for his two unannounced drop-ins, and one for himself.

After much Dettol, more brandy and even more coffee, both accident victims were ready to be off again; the rain had ceased and the mighty Ajay was completely undamaged. (It’s a ‘Smart’ motorbike, remember; the mighty Ajay knew how to crash without damaging himself).

By the time we arrived at Amanda’s place, the moon and the stars were all shining brightly and, obvious discomforts aside, it was just another Saturday night in paradise for a single young fella with an AJS Single…

Road Tales By Kelly Ashton

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